This verse is extracted from the Mundaka Upanisad. The Upanisad says `As rivers flowing disappear in the ocean losing name and form, the wise one free from name and form attains the effulgent Purusa’. He gives the example of rivers entering the ocean. Each river is distinct and different from the other.The chemicals and mineral compositions of the rivers are different but the moment the rivers enter the ocean they lose their individual properties and merge with the totality.
Similarly, here is a person who has reached the state of infinite Happiness. All of us are chasing happiness and yet nobody seems to know where happiness lies or how to get it. The Gita gives us a formula for happiness. The formula as enunciated by Tilak in ‘Gita Rahasya’ is
Happiness = Number of desires actualised
Number of desires harboured
Mathematically, if you want to increase the quotient you must either increase the numerator or decrease the denominator. Or both. In the hope of increasing happiness you are attempting to increase the numerator all your life. But are you achieving happiness? When one desire gets fulfilled, you are happy for a while but simultaneously, without your realising it, the denominator also increases. As a result your happiness actually shrinks. Everywhere you go you find attractive shop displays. Products are being advertised aggressively. As a result you fulfil a few desires, and the numerator increases a bit, but the denominator increases at a faster rate. Thus your happiness is constantly diminishing.
A lady walks into a shop to buy an outfit. She knows the type of outfit she wants to buy, her budget is fixed, etc. She enters and the salesman offers to help her. She tells him what she is looking for. He understands perfectly well what she wants but he pulls out 20 outfits of every other category. Her intellect is alert in the beginning and she says `This is not what I asked for’. He replies `I know but just take a look at these’. So he unfurls outfit after outfit and slowly she is led into the trap. She says, `Isn’t this pretty’? He asks, ‘shall I keep it aside?’ This goes on till she has short-listed about 10 outfits which are kept aside. Then she remembers the purpose of her visit. She buys the piece that she had originally wanted and leaves. She had walked in with one desire which got fulfilled. But she has walked out with ten more desires. This is just one experience. It is happening to us all the time.
So if you want your happiness to increase, what you need to do is just deal with the denominator. The numerator is not really relevant. If you increase the numerator, your happiness will increase. But any increase in the denominator will negate it. Besides however much you increase the numerator you can never get infinite happiness. On the other hand if you reduce the denominator your happiness increases in leaps and bounds. And if you are able to bring it down to zero you achieve infinite Happiness. That is exactly what you are looking for. The whole spiritual path is designed to get you to that infinite Happiness. Once you attain Infinity, anything that is added on does not make any difference.
This is true even mathematically.
Infinite + 2 = Infinite
Infinite – 2 = Infinite
Infinite +Infinite = Infinite
Infinite – Infinite = Infinite
`One in whom all objects of desires enter attains peace, not the desirer of objects’. The person who deals with the denominator achieves peace not the person who is working on the numerator.
You may or may not fulfil your desires. But there must be some programme to deal with the denominator if you are serious about attaining happiness. Otherwise you will be stuck with a whole lot of desires and you won’t know how to manage them.
In verses 69 to 72 he is summarising the portion. Arjuna’s question in verse 54 is `Who is a perfect Person, what is his description?’ In verse 55 Krsna gives the definition of a realised Person. `One who has completely cast away all desires from the mind and is totally fulfilled in the Self by the Self, is a realised Person’. In verse 70 He explains the concept further.
Here He concludes. He says `That person who has relinquished all desires’. The problem with us is not in the possession or accumulation of external objects. The problem is multiplication of desires in the mind. As long as you have a desire, you became dependent. You become a slave, a beggar, to the object of desire. Then you hand over the reins of your personality to that particular object or being. This is an unintelligent thing to do. So have the object, but not the desire. You can have the world at your feet, but never should you crave for or hanker after anything. And we have already seen how to relinquish desire. Escalate to the higher desire and the lower drops.
From infancy to adulthood this escalation is natural. But having reached adulthood we need to put in effort to move to spiritual adulthood which is the state of Realisation. In order to grow to that stage we need knowledge of the higher. Once you gain knowledge of the higher, the lower desires automatically drop. You do not need to make an effort to drop the lower desires.
There is a story of a neighbouring country in which there was a revolution and the royal family had to seek refuge in India. When the situation improved the king, the queen and the courtiers returned, leaving the 3-month old prince in the safe hands of their trusted governess in Mumbai. They told her not to tell anyone that he was the prince, not even the little heir himself.
Soon thereafter the entire royal family was put to death. The infant prince was the only surviving member, the heir to the throne. There was anarchy in the state for several years. When peace returned, the loyal subjects wanted their king back. They sent their representatives all over Mumbai to look for the prince. The prince and his governess were living in the streets in utter poverty. The prince was a beggar. One day he would get a big bonus and celebrate. Another day nobody gave him alms so he was dejected. This was his life.
One day he encountered the royal entourage. They were speaking a strange language which he had heard his governess speak. So he quickly ran and called her out. She realised that they were the courtiers looking out for the prince and was ecstatic. However due to security reasons she did not tell the prince the truth. She only said they were friends and had invited them to their hometown.
On arrival in their capital they told the prince the truth. Initially he wanted to return to Mumbai and was uncomfortable in his new role. But he gradually got used to it and soon he became a good King. A year later he came to India on a state visit. One day in Mumbai, he dodged his security personnel, got into his old beggar clothes and went to the same street where he used to beg until a year ago. He went to a few shops and homes. Some gave him alms, others didn’t.
What is the difference between his experiences now and a year back? Who is he now? He is the king. Who was he a year ago? He was the king even then. Then what is the difference? One year back even though he was the king he did not know he was king. It is the ignorance of his kingship that made a world of difference to his experiences. One year back when somebody was good to him, he was thrilled. If somebody was unpleasant, he was dejected. He went through the ups and downs of life because he did not know he was king. Now he is going through the same experiences. But he is enjoying every moment of the two hours in his beggar clothes. Because now he knows he is king.
So all you have to do is understand who you really are. Once you understand that you are king, Atman, you remain unaffected through the highs and lows of life. You retain the equanimity and exhilaration of kingship through all your experiences. So therefore knowledge is the key. Knowledge not of the Gita, not of the scriptures, but knowledge of your Self. In `Atmabodha’ Sankaracarya says `of all spiritual disciplines knowledge of Self is the direct means to liberation’. Once you know your true identity you live in the world in a totally different manner – detached, unaffected, blissful.
In this verse he beautifully encapsulates the entire 19 verses. He endorses the concept of `jeevan mukti’ which means you can gain the stage of Realisation even here, while living in the world. There is another concept called `videhamukti’ which says that you have to physically die to get to the state of Realisation. Throughout the Gita, Krsna says you can get it ‘here and now’. He does not promise a speculative, post-mortem heaven. All you have to do is want it. Then you put in efforts to get it.
You might wonder having reached some level of spiritual development what happens if you slip? What happens when you die? The Gita says having got it, there is no return. In the material world you work to make money, but you might lose it. Or a person aspires for and attains social status but one slip and it is gone. You tend to believe that the same thing will happen in the spiritual field. But spiritual assets once obtained never go. Your spiritual stock only accumulates. No loss, only gain. Krsna gives us this assurance. He says `even at the end of life one does not lose the state of nirvana – union with Brahman’. It continues even after death.
This is not true of any other achievement. You have to leave behind everything that you achieve in this world after death. You cannot take your assets with you. You cannot take your home or even your family with you. You cannot carry forward your degrees. You might have put in a lot of effort to get all this but when you die it is all left behind. The only thing you carry forward is your spiritual status, the level and quality of your mind and intellect. So it would be wise to invest a little time and effort in safeguarding your future interest.
Inherent in the description of a person of Realisation is the path to get there. Thus we have a clear goal to aspire for. And a method by which to get there. As Indians, this knowledge is our inheritance. It is our wealth. If we are able to make use of it, bring it out of the books and into our lives, we can work miracles in the world not only for ourselves but also for humanity at large. Right through history this country has been a beacon light for humanity. The unfortunate part is that we are not making use of it. So the appeal here by Krsna is – use this knowledge, develop yourself.